RUNDOWN: Weekly Releases for 7/9/13

The Host

Universal / 2013 / 125 Minutes / Rated PG-13

Blu-rayRelease Date: July 9, 2013

After the monster international success of the 'Twilight' series, Universal was quick to cash in on another property by author Stephenie Meyer with her worldwide best selling love story, 'The Host'. Unfortunately, lightening did not strike twice with this convoluted futuristic love story written and directed by Andrew Niccol. With a mostly unknown cast including Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, Max Irons, Chandler Canterbury and Diane Kruger, this painfully long epic misses the mark on almost every level. After a very brief stay at theaters, Universal is hoping to recoup some of their losses by rushing this 2013 release on video.

The film's conceit delves into the imponderable of what if everything you love was taken from you in the blink of an eye? This futuristic love-story surrounds the plight of an unseen enemy who threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories. When Melanie Stryder (Ronan) falls in the crosshairs of this outside force, will she be able to protect the only four people in the world she cares about? The main problem with 'The Host' is you never feel any true jeopardy. Niccol does himself no favors by hammering the film's message of 'love conquering all' practically from the very first frame. With little left to hang onto, the story goes through its expected paces, leaving audiences yawning until the end.

Extras include audio commentary by writer-director Niccol as well as author Stephenie Meyer and producer Nick Wechsler. There are also two short featurettes titled 'Bringing the Host to Life', and 'Seeker PSA'. There are also four deleted scenes as well as the film's original theatrical trailer.

Hands of the Ripper

Synapse Films / 1971 / 85 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

Synapse Films digs up a creeper from 1971 with the cult classic 'Hands of the Ripper'. Coming in at under ninety-minutes, this classic period thriller wastes no time in pulling out the stops and going for as many gory shocks as possible. Directed by Peter Sasdy and starring Eric Porter, Angharad Rees and Jane Merrow, this may feel kitschy and a little gimmicky by today's standards but in the day was the typical fare you'd find as a double feature at your local drive-in.

The film's premise follows the infant daughter of Jack the Ripper who happens to witness to the brutal murder of her mother by her father. Fifteen years later we find the troubled young woman seemingly possessed by the demons of her father. While in a trance she continues his murderous killing spree but has no recollection of the events afterwards. A sympathetic psychiatrist takes her in and is convinced with the right treatment, he can cure her condition. They say the path to hell is paved with good intentions and never was the saying more apt than with the daughter of one of the most brutal serial killers of all time.

Extras are bloody plentiful including The Devil's Bloody Plaything: Possessed by HANDS OF THE RIPPER featurette, Slaughter of Innocence: The Evolution of Hammer Gore motion still gallery

U.S. television introduction, Original theatrical trailer and TV spots

HANDS OF THE RIPPER motion still gallery, as well as an isolated music and effects audio track.

The Jerk

Universal / 1979 / 94 Minutes / Rated R

Blu ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

It's been nearly three and a half decades since Steve Martin made the successful transition from TV writer and college comedian to full-fledged movie start with his hysterical debut, 'The Jerk'. Costarring his soon-to-be love at the time, Bernadette Peters, this coming-of-age tale gone wildly wrong is directed by another genius of a by-gone era, Carl Reiner. Time and comedy are usually mortal enemies but not in the case of this crazy pseudo-biographical tale of Navin Johnson.

As the film begins, "I was born a poor black child", things quickly set the tone for a wild journey of a young man whose crazy inventions lead him from rags to riches and right back to rags. Along the way, he falls in love with a lady motorcycle racer, survives a series of screwball attacks by a deranged killer, and becomes a millionaire by inventing the "Opti-grab" handle for eyeglasses. Reiner plays a cameo of a man whose eyes go cross-eyed because of Navin's invention. Martin proves himself to be a terrific physical comedian as well as a lovable loser in this crazy comedy inspired in part to the lunacy of the Marx Brothers.

Extras include Lost Footage, an Interactive Tutorial as well as the film's theatrical trailer. If Universal has any plans to release a 40th Anniversary edition, it would be nice to hear some audio commentary with both Martin and Reiner.

Sleepless in Seattle

Twilight Time / 1993 / 105 Minutes / Rated PG

Blu ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan became the Tracy/Hepburn of their generation with their first cinematic foray, 'Sleepless in Seattle'. This timeless love story written and directed by Nora Ephron remains one of their best, helping to define the 90's with this quick witted tale of two star crossed lovers, one living in Seattle, the other in Manhattan. Partially inspired by the 1950's love story, 'An Affair to Remember', this top-notch Ephron effort was a hit with critics and audiences alike. A stage musical based upon the film is currently making the rounds, lacking of course, the incredible on-screen chemistry of its two leads, Hanks and Ryan.

Hanks stars as Sam Baldwin, a widowed father who, thanks to his pushy son, becomes a reluctant guest on a radio call-in show. As he tells the host his plight, he becomes an unexpected hit with thousands of female listeners, who deluge his Seattle home with letters o comfort. Meanwhile, inspired in equal parts by Sam's story and by classic Hollywood romance, writer Annie Reed (Ryan) becomes increasingly obsessed in meeting this mystery man. With only two things standing in her way, one--a fiancé of her own and two--Sam has no idea who she is or that they're made for one another, poor Annie has her work cut out for her. With a terrific supporting cast including Rob Reiner and a memorable soundtrack of old and new love songs, 'Sleepless' remains one of the best-loved love stories in a long time.

Extras include an Audio Commentary with Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, Isolated score track, Love in the Movies, "When I Fall in Love" Music Video, Extensive Liner Notes by Julie Kirgo as well as the film's original theatrical trailer.


Columbia / 1997/Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

Columbia is rereleasing 'Gattaca' on video this week probably in the hopes of finding some new interest in this forgotten Sci-Fi thriller with the recent career resurgence of its star Ethan Hawke. Co-starring his then wife Uma Thurman and Jude Law, this interesting yet not entirely effective futuristic thriller ages quite well and certainly deserves to find a new audience a decade and a half after its theatrical release.

Screenwriter Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show) make his feature directorial debut with this Orwellian type sci-fi adventure where one's life is determined by genetic engineering rather than education or experience. In this not-to-distant future, the wealthy can choose the genetic makeup of their descendants, therefore future populations fate is decided before birth. But what happens when someone desires another way of life? It's here where things take off with Vincent Freeman (Hawke) born with defects like a short life expectancy, poor vision and emotional problems decides to break free from his lot in life to journey into space as a Gattaca navigator. To accomplish his goal, he enlists the aid of DNA broker German (Tony Shalhoub) and makes contact with Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), who was paralyzed in an accident and is willing to sell his superior genetic materials. But things quickly unravel as Vincent gets more than he bargained for in this heart-racing thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Extras are sadly lacking considering the cult classic status of this nifty little thriller.

Blood and Sand

20th Century Fox / 1941 / 125 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth, Anthony Quinn, J. Carrol Naish, and John Carradine star in the 1941 romantic adventure 'Blood and Sand'. Based on the novel by Vincente Blasco Ibanez, this top-notch adaptation has plenty going for it including some memorable performances by some of the hottest actors of the day. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian, this six plus decade old classic holds up quite well against some of the sweeping epics of modern day. Well worth a look for any armchair film enthusiast, 'Blood and Sand' features some of Power and Hayworth's best work.

Power plays a young, cocksure Spanish bullfighter who is on the rise to fame when he finds himself over his head with the sophisticates of the day. Soon he is torn between his faithful and a bit boring wife and the sexy Rita Hayworth. With the dangerous world of bullfighting as its backdrop, this rags to riches melodrama mixes romance and action with some titillating scenes of romance and sexuality, typically taboo for the day. This film was originally made in 1922 starting Rudolph Valentino.

Extras include commentary by Richard Crudo, Director of Photography and 2003-2006 President of the American Society of Cinematographers

Dead Man Down

Sony / 2013 / 118 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

Sony is releasing the dead-on-arrival action crime drama 'Dead Man Down' on video this week after a lackluster limited release. Featuring a terrific cast including Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, and a personal favorite, Dominic Cooper, the film is chock full of unrealized potential including the feature American directorial debut of the original 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' director Niels Arden Oplev. Unfortunately, the best this film can muster are a few decent moments and action sequences in an otherwise muddled script of clichés and bad dialogue.

Farrell plays a hired killer and the right hand man to an underground crime lord in New York City. His heart of ice is soon melted and ultimately seduced by a crime victim seeking retribution. She ends up blackmailing him into doing what she wants as the two plot and execute a violent plan for revenge. With a terrific supporting cast including Terrence Howard, Isabelle Huppert and Armand Assante, 'Dead Man Down' is one of those films you desperately wish was better than it is. If you're a fan of the cast, you may be a bit more forgiving than if you're a fan of the genre.

Extras include Firefight Choreography: Staging the Gunfights of Dead Man Down, Revenge Technique: The Cinematography of Dead Man Down, as well as Revenge, Redemption, and The Art of Filming Dead Man Down.


Universal / 2013 / 107 Minutes / Rated PG-13

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

Apparently this must be the week of studios clearing house of some of last year's turkeys with Universal's 'Admission' starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. Directed by 'About a Boy' Paul Weitz, this college comedy tries way too hard to create laughs and chemistry with its stars with barely tepid results in both departments. You will be confounded how this much talent resulted in such a creative disappointment on almost every level. Virtually laugh free; if you don't remember this film hitting your local theater, it's for good reason. Universal wisely decided on a short limited stay at theaters before hoping to capitalize on its star power for an initial foray on video.

Every spring, high school seniors anxiously await letters of college admission that will affirm and encourage their potential. At Princeton University, admissions officer Portia Nathan (Fey) is the one woman you want to impress as it's up to her to either let in or deny thousands of applicants. Year in and year out, Portia has lived her life by the book, at work as well as at the home she shares with Princeton professor Mark (Michael Sheen). When Clarence (Wallace Shawn), the Dean of Admissions, announces his impending retirement, the likeliest candidates to succeed him are Portia and her office rival Corinne (Gloria Reuben). For Portia, however, it's business as usual as she hits the road on her annual recruiting trip where she meets and inevitably butts heads with an unexpected foe (Rudd). Thematically, Weitz strives to tell a story about the surprising detours we encounter on the road to happiness, however the end result is both bland and unsatisfying.

Extras are expectedly lackluster, as if you need some explanation for how bad the film turned out.

Spring Breakers

Lionsgate / 2013 / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

Some films are better than you might expect, as is the case with the cult comedy 'Spring Breakers'. With a decent cast including Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and James Franco, writer-director Haromy Korine delivers a fast, frolicky ninety-minute comedy that may not go down in the annals as the best of its kind, however it certainly delivers the goods in a way that might just have you recommending it to a friend. I predict this tight little comedy will continue to build a strong legion of fans to one day become a cult classic. It certainly explains Franco's participation.

The story surrounds the plight of four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work. Brit (Benson), Candy (Hudgens), Cotty (Korine) and Faith (Gomez) have been best friends since grade school who find themselves over their head in trouble in what will obviously go down as the most ridiculously memorable Spring Break adventure ever. With some terrific characters, smart dialogue and swift direction, 'Spring Breakers' delivers a satisfying mix of laughs and thrills until the very end.

Extras include a Behind the scenes documentary, some deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes and musical performances.

Punk Vacation

Vinegar Syndrome / 1990 / 93 Minutes / Unrated

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

With an eclectic mix of releases this week, none seem to defy description than 1990's crime-drama 'Punk Vacation'. With a mostly unknown cast including Sandra Bogan, Stephen Fiachi, and Raymond Fusci, this chick biker's adventure directed by Stanley Lewis has been almost forgotten for nearly a quarter century before being revived and restored by Vinegar Syndrome. Definitely an acquired taste, this visceral crime thriller is both unique and unforgiving in terms of the visual brutality it portrays.

A gang of vicious punks turn life in a peaceful California town upside down when one day the residents discover their bucolic lifestyle is up for grabs after the brutal murder of diner owner. When the daughter of the slain man attempts to avenge her father's death, she's held hostage by the gang resulting in an epic battle between punks and rednecks. Lewis weaves a complex tale in that you're not quite sure who to root for with both villains and victims portrayed in a way that doesn't make either entirely empathetic.

Extras are plentiful in this fully restored print including a Video interview with Producer, Stephen Fusci, Video interview with Stuntman, Steven Rowland as well as a bonus feature titled 'Nomad Riders'.

Would You Rather

MPI / 2012 / 124 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

'Would You Rather' is a quirky horror suspense film from 2012 with an intriguing title and eclectic cast including Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs, John Heard, Jonny Coyne, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., and Enver Gjokaj. Directed by David Guy Levy this offbeat suspense film contains an interesting premise that sadly starts to fizzle in this two-plus-hour long epic that attempts to have you guessing until the end. The problem is maintaining enough interest along the way to care about the outcome as things quickly unravel in ways you see coming a mile away.

What would you do if a millionaire offered you a chance to solve all your life's problems? After the tragic death of her parents, Iris (Snow) is in a pickle financially to care of herself and her terminally ill younger brother. When seemingly philanthropic aristocrat Shepard Lambrick (Combs) expresses an interest in helping them by inviting her to an exclusive dinner party that offers the chance at untold riches, Iris finds herself in a group of similarly desperate individuals all looking to make some easy money. Of course there's a catch--as the guests find themselves trapped in Lambrick's mansion and forced to play a sadistic game of Would You Rather, where only the winner will get out alive. Sort of a mix between 'Saw' and 'The Game', the film could have wisely used a bit more editing to keep the audience on the edge of their seat.

Extras include audio commentary as well as the film's original theatrical trailer.

Cohen & Tate

Shout Factory / 1988 / 86 Minutes / Rated R

Blu-ray Release Date: July 9, 2013

Shout Factory digs up another forgotten thriller from the late 80's with 'Cohen & Tate'. Written and directed by Eric Red, this decent crime-thriller has a lot going for it including a terrific premise as well as Roy Scheider playing a memorable character outside his 'Chief Brody' persona from 'Jaws'. Costarring Adam Baldwin and Harley Cross, 'Cohen & Tate' may lack a catchy title however this 1988 gem may just surprise you with a heart racing action roller coaster.

Travis (Cross) is a nine-year-old boy who lives in Oklahoma with his federally protected parents. But even witness relocation protection can only get you so far. After the mob finds and kills his parents for ratting on them, the gang leader demands that Travis be brought to Houston. Cohen (Scheider) is the veteran hit man who signs on for one last job. Much to Cohen's dismay, he is paired with the psychopath Tate (Baldwin). When Cohen does nothing to hide his dislike for his new partner, the precocious nine-year old quickly learns how to play one against the other in the hopes of his escape. One of Baldwin's best in an otherwise brief stab at stepping outside his brother Alec's matinee shadow.

Extras include audio commentary by writer-director Eric Red as well as trailers for other Shout Factory releases.


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